Friday, September 22, 2006

Around the Blogs 9-22-06

Real Cost of Prisons has a couple of posts worth thinking about. The first brings you a story and an editorial from CA on its coming vote for the state's version of "Jessica's Law." If you simply value punishment for its own sake, and that's actually a defensible position, then your support for this law makes sense. But if you think the added sentences are going to stop child sex abuse (which is already down under existing law), the evidence says you're wrong, and in fact likely to increase it, which is why so many DAs have opposed these things (can't get charges against Daddy, Reverend, Coach, whoever). If you think GPS tracking will get it done, unless you put trackers on every child in town as well and have immediate response teams only a minute or so away for every offender-child interaction, you'll be wrong again. If you think all sex offenders are alike, recidivate alike, deserve the same punishments as the hard-core abusers, you've hit the trifecta of wrong. And, if you think this is the best use of public safety dollars when law enforcement, prosecutors, juvenile justice, and courts remain so lacking, you need to dope me heavily before you'll convince me. "Jessica's Law" is the best current example of policymaking ignoring demonstrated consequences and real needs while pushing enormous costs off on unsuspecting taxpayers until the unnecessary bills come due. I have no sympathy at all for child abuse of any kind and am willing to consider punishments for heinous offenders that civilized people might blanch at. But this is just another case of action derailing thought, causing more victims, not fewer, and higher costs that lead to even more victims in other areas. Maybe CA going broke, with WI and CO eagerly following, is what this nation needs as a whole to stop this thoughtlessness. (This is not a political rant. It's attention to reality. Maybe someday we'll recognize the value of that again.) . . . The other Real Cost post is a report from the Hastings Center discussing prison health care, its problems, and its possible Eighth Amendment implications. Good overview, discussion of issues. . . . Speaking of the Eighth Amendment, Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy alerts us to an op-ed questioning the 200-year sentence of an AZ man simply for possessing child porn (no evidence of other behavior), and his challenge that the sentence is "unusual" under the 8th Amend. I bring this up not for the reason you might think but to note that one implication of the coordinated national sentencing data and info system that I frequently advocate here might mean more cases of this sort, citing truly anomalous state sentences compared to possibilities in other states. And before you think, well, here's another defendant dream-come-true, victims would also have comparative data for use in pushing legislation. That's why we need a group of learned and serious folks not just doing the coordinating but thinking through the possible futures.

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